(So, did you hear? I’m posting each day until Christmas. If you are one of those people who doesn’t check in with your favorite blogs over the weekend (what?), I actually need to send you back so you can see the amazing salted caramel brownies, braided cranberry walnut bread, and holiday biscotti that I talked about over the past couple of days.)
“Did you make that?” The phrase is music to a baker’s ears. Presenting a dessert and having people think that maybe you bought it at a bakery because it looks so good is the ultimate compliment. Especially for a baker who makes delicious things that don’t always look all that great. Layer cakes are not necessarily difficult but they can still be exasperating. You can have the best intentions, you can follow the recipe to a “t”, and the thing can still not turn out right. But.
Fact: I brought this cake to a solstice party this weekend. Fact: I did make it. Fact: Even thought I am my own worst critic, I was really proud about how it looked. Fact: I may have used a little too much chocolate ganache on the top. Fact: I was a little nervous about the flavor of the frosting due to using cappucino oil rather than the coffee extract called for in the recipe (I ordered some coffee extract from an Amazon vendor and, 8 days later, it had still not arrived). Fact: I opted out of paying $9 for chocolate covered espresso beans that were supposed to garnish this beauty. Fact: I did not taste this cake.
Our lovely babysitter Catherine, who was watching our kids while we went to said solstice party, requested that we get home no later than 10pm so she could catch her red-eye flight home for the holidays. Because of this fact, we got to the party early so we could maximize our enjoyment. There was a wonderful cocktail. They served turducken (which fascinated Randy), there were vegan rice krispie treats which made me want to weep with joy, and there was a tour of the now beautiful house that used to be, um, not quite as beautiful. It was toward the end of the tour that I looked at my watch and realized that our coach was about 1 minute away from turning into a pumpkin.
I ran to the kitchen, I opened the box that I had brought the cake in. There may have been ooohs and aaaahs. I may have knocked over a bottle of vermouth in my hurry to open the box. I may have cut large and not-even slices in my haste. I may have licked frosting off my fingers. But I did not get a taste of this cake. Furthermore, my coffee-hating, supposedly chocolate-disliking husband has been moaning about how he didn’t get a piece of cake since the party.
I asked my solstice friend to send me a report on how it was and how people liked it. Normally, I would wait for the dispatch before writing about it. But the cake recipe came from my new BFF baking cookbook so I know, I just KNOW it was good. It was nice to hear that the cake was the talk of the party.
So, I almost never do this, but I am not going to post this recipe. It is, as you can imagine, quite long and I am on my second week of having sick kids in the house. It comes from the Baked Explorations cookbook which I think I would just copy out recipe by recipe and give to you all if I could – it is that amazing. If anyone is DYING to make it, email me. I will photocopy and send you the recipe.
UPDATE: Of course, I ended up getting a lot of email requests for the recipe, so here it is!
Chocolate Coffee Cake
Make an 8-inch 3-layer cake
For the classic chocolate cake
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 cup sour cream
2 2/3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup vegetable shortening
1½ cups granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
For the coffee buttercream
1½ cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup flour
1½ cups whole milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, cut into small pieces
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 tbsp. coffee extract
For the chocolate glaze
8 ounces good-quality (60 to 72%) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened, cut into pieces
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
Make the classic chocolate cake
Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans, line them with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Dust the parchment with flour and knock out the excess flour.
In a medium bowl, mix the cocoa powder and sour cream with 1¼ cups hot water and set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.
Using a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes – the mixture will appear to string or ribbon throughout the bowl. Add the sugars and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 more minutes. Add the eggs, one at t time, mixing about 10 to 15 seconds after each addition until the egg is incorporated into the mixture. Then turn the mixer to low, add the vanilla, and beat until incorporated. Scape down the sides of the bowl and mix again for 30 seconds.
Beginning with the dry ingredients, add the dry mixture and the cocoa mixture to the mixer bowl in three alternating parts, ending with dry. Divide the batter among the prepared pans. Use an offset spatula to level the batter. Bake the cakes for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pans halfway thorough the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and cool for 30 to 45 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack and let them cool completely. Remove the parchment. (DT: I made these cakes 2 days ahead, wrapped them well in foil and left them out at room temperature.)
Make the coffee buttercream
In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes a boil and has thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Transfer the mixture ot the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool (this takes about 7 to 9 minutes of mixing; however, you can speed up the process by pressing bags of frozen berries or frozen corn around the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl). Reduce the speed to low and add the utter; mix until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, about another 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the vanilla and coffee extracts and continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, put the bowl in the refrigerator to chill slightly, then beat again until it is the proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.
To assemble the cake
Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Trim the top to create a flat surface, and evenly spread about 1¼ cups frosting on top. Add the next layer, trim and frost it, then add the third layer. Spread a very thin layer of frosting over the sides and top of the cake and put it in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to firm up. Spread the sides and top of the cake with the remaining frosting. Refrigerate it for 15 minutes to firm up.
Make the chocolate glaze
Place the chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in the top of a double boiler. Using a rubber spatula, stir the mixture until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Remove the pan from over the heat and stir the glaze to release excess heat.
Glaze the cake
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place your cake on a wire rack over the baking sheet. Slowly pour ¾ cup of the glaze over the cake. Use a small offset spatula to smooth it out to the edges. Place the cak in the refrigerator for 5 minutes to set the glaze. Remove from the refrigerator and slowly pour the rest of the glaze over the cake. It should run down the edges in thick streams. (DT: I didn’t use all the glaze and I would use even less next time.) Chill the entire cake for 20 minutes, or until the glaze is set, then transfer the cake to cake plate. Serve at room temperature.
The cake can be stored, covered in a cake dome or cake saver, at room temperature for up to 3 days.